New measures try to make sure that border tourists do not import forbidden religion or “extremism” into the country.
by Liang Changpu
A new draft regulation including “Measures for the Administration of Border Tourism” has been published for comments by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on September 20. The publication of drafts for comments is a pseudo-democratic cosmetic measure as rarely, if ever, are significant changes introduced based on third parties’ statements received by the authorities.
Border tourism is defined in China, as elsewhere, as tourism through short trips by those who live near the border in neighboring countries, and may be exempted from the normal visa requirements. In China, border tourism by both Chinese who visit areas just outside the border and foreign neighbors who visit China is only allowed if tourists are part of organized groups with pre-determined programs and itineraries.
With these limitations, resuming border tourism after COVID is important for the CCP. It is an excellent opportunity to expose foreigners who live near China’s border to CCP propaganda. As for the Chinese, in recent years and decades many have acquired a taste for tourism and to be allowed to travel abroad, if only for a short trip near the border, improves the morale of the tourists with good effects on social stability.
However, for the CCP control is always the key. This control extends to “extremist” activities, as it is always possible that ethnically and linguistically similar populations that live on the other side of the border may excite “separatist” feelings among ethnic minorities. Also, in recent years and even during the COVID crisis, border patrols have been organized, particularly at the borders with Vietnam, with the specific aim of preventing the entry into China of missionaries and of illegal religious material.
Xie jiao is sometimes translated as “cult,” but in fact indicates groups the CCP perceives as hostile to the regime, and Chinese courts increasingly interpret the category by including in it even groups that are not part of the official list of the xie jiao.
The new regulations on border tourism explicitly forbids that “contents that promote xie jiao” or promote “extremism,” another very broad category, may be included in the programs for the border tourists or brought to China by the border tourists themselves. One may assume that this is in fact unlikely, but the regulation offers further evidence of the CCP’s obsessions.